How is it a universal truth that every closet is bursting at the seams, but its owner is consistently left with nothing to wear? Cliché as this may be, this quandary is far and away the most common wardrobe stylists encounter. With a new season approaching and bombardments of floral frocks, it may seem logical to run to the stores to stock up on fresh finds, but you do not need to run out and purchase yet another pair of maybe-I’ll-wear-these sandals.
Having confronted this issue with my clients, ranging from the executive woman to retiree, and everyone in between, I have devised the following six tips that will allow you to triple your existing wardrobe without any extra purchases. With a little patience and creativity, you’ll likely find that you already have everything you need.
While this may be time consuming, it’s the very first and most important step you must take if you want to break your closet-stuffing cycle. Rediscovering what you own is always a fun way to “shop” your closet. You’ll find those like-new sandals you bought at the end of the season last year that are just waiting to be worn with a fresh pedicure and spring optimism. And you’ll remember you have that designer blouse you got on clearance three years ago, and even though it never fit right, you plan on eventually bringing it to your local tailor to see if he or she can work some magic (hint: part ways with clothes that still have tags … and this blouse).
If you have difficulty letting go, ask yourself, “If I were out shopping right now, would I buy this?”
If it’s a no, let it go and donate it to someone who will use it. North Shore Exchange is a nonprofit resale boutique that supports children and families in need. No matter where you are, there is a group looking to put your lightly worn garments to good use.
Utilize different lengths
If you have a crop top hiding in your closet from 20 years ago and it still fits, don’t get rid of it just yet. Before parting ways with it, layer it over a sleeveless tunic or other (long) top. Different lengths create depth and interesting detail, and are a great way to use multiple pieces from your closet in a way that makes each look entirely different than when it’s worn alone.
When layered properly, a shirt with a ruffle or pleated hem can transform an otherwise simple sweater and unleash unique detail you never knew was there.
Think outside your belt loops
Repurposing your existing pieces can be a fun, creative way to utilize your existing wardrobe and accessories. Whether you wear your favorite silk scarf as a belt or cluster your grandmothers’ brooches on the pocket of a classic blazer, it’s the small details that make an outfit feel like new.
Make a vested effort
Vests are an instant outfit-maker because they add depth without the bulk. As you continue pulling and taking inventory, pay special attention to your vests.
The vest that will add the most life to your wardrobe is one you can wear throughout all seasons and is a neutral color. A favorite stylist staple, this Celeste the Vest from Two Penny Blue is versatile for every occasion. Plus, with every jacket purchased, Two Penny Blue donates a school uniform to a girl in need in Africa.
For a casual, put-together look, wear your vest with denim and a faux leather jacket or soften its look with feminine extras, like an elegant maxi dress and cross-body bag.
Don’t own a vest? Take any of your so-done-with-that blazers and have it repurposed into a vest you can use frequently.
Playing with print mixing or bold colors aren’t the only ways to make outfits pop. Distinctive textures — soft faux shearling or nubby tweed — are beautiful ways to add interest and dimension that look (and feel) oh so good.
For a dinner-worthy ensemble, mix favorites like your DVF wrap dress, faux shearling vest and a pair of black tights and knee-high boots. This outfit is effortless, but polished, with a touch of dimension.
You can also wear that same faux shearling vest under a colored leather jacket for a perfect spring look.
Don’t save your sequins
We all either need more special occasions to attend or to seriously reconsider what qualifies as “special.” So often our wardrobes have an entire section dedicated to these mythical “special occasions.” Approach these pieces you love but rarely utilize to determine how you can combine them with basic staples — like your favorite dark denim or a turtleneck. It’s such a shame to have the most beautiful pieces in your closet go to waste for sometimes years at a time, yet so many of us are guilty of this sin.
Wear your sequins or bold leopard with a smile — you’ll be sure to feel fabulous knowing that you’re wearing the pieces you love the most.
Hanna L. Ashbaugh owner of Hanna Lee Style is a personal stylist helping women look put-together with functional fashion and go-to outfits. Inspired by her grandma’s iconic fashion sense and her mom’s interior genius, she’s inherited the love of all things pretty in home and wardrobe. Hanna works with many nonprofits and donates regularly to Bridge to Success, Catholic Charities‘ women and children shelters, and Free The Girls, a nonprofit close to her entrepreneurial heart. Free The Girls empowers survivors of human trafficking to start their own businesses by selling bras in their local second-hand markets.